Mike Price was fired by Alabama without coaching a game because of behavior including a night at a topless bar -- another embarrassment for a once-proud football program.
University President Robert Witt said Saturday that Price failed to live his “personal and professional life in a manner consistent with university policies.”
Price, hired away from Washington State in December, lost his job because of his conduct on a trip to Florida last month for a pro-am golf tournament. Witt disclosed for the first time that Price was warned before that trip about his public behavior.
“To the university and the entire ‘Bama Nation, I admit making mistakes and at times inappropriate behavior, but I also ask for your forgiveness,” Price said.
He isn’t the only college coach whose conduct away from games has been under scrutiny. Iowa State men’s basketball Coach Larry Eustachy was suspended last week for being photographed at a student party after an away game. The school’s athletic director recommended that Eustachy be fired.
Alabama has won six national football championships, but it can’t seem to keep a coach lately and is on NCAA probation.
Reports emerged during the week that Price spent hundreds of dollars at a topless bar and, the next morning, a woman ordered about $1,000 of room service and charged it to his hotel bill.
The 57-year-old Price, his wife and the two sons he hired for the Alabama coaching staff sat with the media for a brief public session with university trustees Saturday.
After Witt announced the firing, a tearful Price was alternately apologetic and defiant in speaking to an auditorium packed with reporters and fans. He said he asked Witt for a second chance, but the president declined.
“I don’t think the punishment fits the crime,” Price said. “I strongly feel that I was the man that could have put this behind us. I think President Witt is making a mistake. He’s not breaking the law, but he’s making an error in judgment.”
Witt called Price “a great coach, a good man,” but the president added that Price failed to live up to responsibilities that come with the job of head coach at Alabama.
Before trustees went behind closed doors, pleas were made to retain Price.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” quarterback Brodie Croyle said. “You can rest assured it won’t happen again.” He later hinted some players might transfer.
The previous coach, Dennis Franchione, left abruptly after last season for Texas A&M.; The team’s probation stems from rules violations under coach Mike DuBose, who was forced out in 2000 during a 3-8 season.
Price led Washington State to consecutive 10-win seasons and a Rose Bowl berth last season. He was to have been Alabama’s sixth head coach since Bear Bryant retired after the 1982 season.
The late Bryant set the standard -- and lofty expectations -- for all future Alabama football coaches, winning five AP national championships and establishing a since-broken record for Division I victories.
The only other Alabama coach to win a national title was Gene Stallings in 1992.
With Price clearly in trouble this week, and the program in turmoil, there has been talk among Alabama fans that Stallings might be called on to take over on an interim basis.
Witt denied that, saying he will meet with Athletic Director Mal Moore today to begin the search process.
Price had agreed to a seven-year contract worth $10 million with Alabama, but he never signed it.